Five months have passed since Rohan Dennis abandoned the Tour de France in mysterious circumstances, climbing off the bike seemingly without cause during stage 12, the day before the race’s major time trial.
So the first chapter of climbing at this year’s Tour de France has ended. While I’m sure no one is surprised that Chris Froome is in yellow, I’m not sure anyone would’ve tipped him to be leading by almost three minutes.
For all of Froome’s GC rivals and so many other accomplished climbers to collapse so dramatically on Stage 10 – and then fail to arrest any of their deficit the following day – was almost surreal.
Surely what happened couldn’t just be attributed to Sky power led by the incredible Mr Froome?
I reckon overnight we saw proof that it wasn’t the only sky power at work.
Last night, in pouring rain and temperatures that plummeted to the mid-teens, we saw a number of riders revive their Tour campaigns, and maybe even their chances of beating Froome.
I’m sure no one really likes racing in the rain, which in the high mountains often becomes hail, but Joachim Rodriguez, Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali and to a lesser degree Alberto Contador all seemed much more comfortable than Froome once the heat was washed away.
Yes, Froome didn’t lose any time last night and yes, he’s still going to be incredibly difficult to beat, but if the weather does get colder and wetter, just maybe the road to Paris will be a little more fraught.
Does anyone want the Polka Dot Jersey this year?
For a long time now we’ve become accustomed to seeing someone make a concerted effort to be the King of the Mountain but with the Pyrenees now behind us, no real challenger has emerged.
Going into Stage 12 Chris Froome lead the Climbers Classification, but he clearly has bigger fish to fry.
Teammate Richie Porte was second, but clearly is there to support Froome.
Rafal Majka and Nairo Quintana were equal third, but the Pole is there for his struggling team leader Alberto Contador and the Colombian hasn’t yet surrendered his GC dream.
On the final, gruelling day in the Pyrenees in searing heat then pouring rain, we saw Michael Kwiatkowski give it a shot, but he didn’t secure the KOM lead before being passed by stage winner Joachim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez.
Purito didn’t get enough points either, but he is now second in that competition.
So maybe the veteran Spaniard wants it, but as the next four days are nothing more than Category 2, 3 or 4 climbs, he and the other pure climbers will put their guns away for a while.
I hope Rodriguez does target the KOM because at 13:45 on GC he is well out of the reckoning, and in the Tour there’s nothing quite like seeing a true ‘mountain goat’ at the peak of his powers.
Lance Armstrong, who asked you?
Why after Stage 10 did you tweet this?
1. Clearly Froome/Porte/Sky are very strong. Too strong to be clean? Don’t ask me, I have no clue.
— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) July 14, 2015
Yes, you probably don’t have a clue but, really who did ask you? Was it some one important that compelled you to answer?
It’s a shame that we can’t watch performances like Froome put on in the Pyrenees without thinking suspiciously about what we’re seeing.
Lance, you say you get asked questions by your Twitter followers all the time about riders and whether they are clean or doping, but why do you have to answer?
Surely, you know that people will forensically examine every word you write or say when it comes to doping suspicions, so why even put your toe in the water, so to speak?
Sorry, but I don’t get it.
Maybe you just have relevance depravation syndrome.
Face it, you’ve had your time and have done more than your fair share of damage to the sport.
If others want to, then that their decision, but the only time we want to hear from you about it is if you’re in front of a judge.
A stage like we saw last night must’ve been super hard. As already mentioned it began in 35-degree heat and ended in pouring rain and 20 degrees colder.
Imagine being in the Gruppetto as they slugged up the final 16km climb in weather like that, when the whole object of the day was nothing more than survival?
Imagine being a bruised and broken Michael Matthews riding in that weather?
Well he did that last night and he finished the stage.
‘Bling’ crossed the line in 163rd place, 39 seconds and 12 places ahead of Lampre-Merida’s Davide Cimolai.
Matthews sits last (175th) on the GC almost 11 minutes behind teammate Svein Tuft in 174, but it’s wonderful to see him still riding, and the odds must surely now be on him reaching Paris.
If Matthews does finish the Tour it’ll be as good as anything he’s ever done on a bike.